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How would you like to use a natural environment to reduce your energy consumption and at the same time increase the comfort, value and beauty of your home? That’s a passive house design. With intelligent planning of your new home design, layout and orientation you can improve natural lighting, interior comfort and save money. This is done by designing your new home to utilize solar energy, distributing solar energy with thermal mass, preventing heat loss or absorption with better insulation and tight cover. Passively utilizing solar energy is about orienting your home to maximize southern exposure. During the winter months, the sun’s angle toward the horizon during the day is as low as 30%.
Although it may be very cold outside the sun it still emits a large amount of energy that can be caught to warm your home. This is done by designing the room layout so that the largest room with the largest windows facing south. Conversely, during the summer the sun’s angle to the horizon during the day is as high as 78%. Again, with some simple planning, it’s easy to bend solar energy from the interior. This is done by using a roof overhang is sufficient to shade the window area. In addition, most new windows are lined with special materials that reflect the sun’s energy at a high angle and receive it at low angles like winter.
Doing this simple tip will help your home stay cool and comfortable even on the hottest days. Once your home is completely oriented to absorb or reflect solar energy, you then introduce a thermal mass to your design. Thermal mass is a heavy material such as water, concrete, bricks, tiles and stones that easily absorb or radiate heat. Some ways to build thermal mass are ceramic or concrete floors and stone walls or interior stones. In order to more effectively design non-thermal mass areas, such as walls and ceilings made of drywall, to reflect solar energy to the thermal mass region.
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A good example of this is the exterior patio that reflects the low sunlight from the ground, through the windows, to the ceiling and then down to the floor or wall. Houses designed like this create most of the warmth of the sun free energy during the day like a green house. At night the thermal mass releases stored heat energy that helps maintain indoor comfort. During the summer, the thermal mass cools at night. Then absorbing the heat during the day once again helps regulate the comfort in the room.
Now that your house has taken advantage of free energy, the next step is to prevent exterior weather conditions from entering your home. This is done by many home builders with advanced insulation that gives a minimum of r-50 on the ceiling, r-21 on the wall and r-30 on the floor. Many home builders include additional insulation such as foam boards that help prevent thermal bridging. To prevent air leakage, all the penetration and joints of the house cause the home air almost tight.
It may sound like this will make your passive house much more expensive, but that is not necessarily the case. The upfront cost will be a bit more, but the price does not match the lower costs like smaller heating and cooling systems and in some cases the interior lighting is lacking. But the great benefit is the reduction of long-term utility costs.